Appearing on Russia Today’s CrossTalk, see here or click on video above, in advance of President Obama’s Tuesday address on Syria, Flynt described how the Obama administration’s “largely self-generated difficulties” on the Syrian issue had left Obama with no option but to “appear to be working with some seriousness with Russia to try and make [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s] proposal work.” As Flynt points out,
“The administration was clearly getting desperate. It has already lost almost all international support for its proposed strikes on Syria. I think there is a very real chance that, certainly, the House was going to vote against the administration, and I think the Senate was getting close enough where it was even thinkable that someone who opposed the resolution could carry out a filibuster. So the congressional option was drying up for Mr. Obama. Now Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has very artfully taken advantage of the administration’s largely self-generated difficulties and put this diplomatic proposal on the table…If [Obama] doesn’t appear to be working with some seriousness with Russia to try and make this proposal work, the administration is really completely checkmated in Syria.
As it is, if this diplomatic proposal does get some traction and details are able to be worked out that lets some version of it move forward, I think the critical achievement here—from a Russian perspective, from the perspective of many other players—the critical achievement here is you’ve gotten an administration that was operating more and more outside the bounds of international law, you’ve actually now potentially gotten them bound into a legal international framework for dealing with the Syrian conflict. And I think that could have a lot of implications, diplomatically and on the ground, moving forward.”
In the course of the discussion, Flynt elaborates some of the more important of these implications:
“I think that the devil is going to be in the details. And I expect that as the Security Council takes this up, as various other parties take this up, that Mr. Lavrov is going to pay a lot of attention to the details. And I think his goal is going to be to use the negotiation of this agreement basically to get the United States to make as much of a commitment as he can extract that—if this deal is implemented, if Syria really does put its chemical weapons stocks under international supervision—that the United States is not going to strike. And if the United States won’t agree to that, it makes it very clear that the real agenda driving Obama’s policy in Syria all along is not really chemical weapons, it’s not even really humanitarian considerations. It’s other considerations.
And so the administration will either be put in a position where it signs up to that and says, basically, OK, if we can address this chemical weapons issue the United States is not going to be using military force essentially to take sides in the Syrian civil war. Or, if [Obama] doesn’t do it, then it’s the United States can’t take yes for an answer.”
Flynt also discusses likely “winners and losers” from successful implementation of the Russian proposal (Iran, in his view, is among the winners) and how doing this deal will require Obama to walk back from his “very foolish position,” publicly declared in August 2011, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go.”
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett